Another Mel Gibson tape? Say it ain't so, Joe Eszterhas
The newly minted Mel Gibson-Joe Eszterhas war of words is starting to sound familiar: The screenwriter now says there's a tape that proves his side of the story.
"He should be very careful calling me a liar," Eszterhas told TheWrap on Thursday, explaining that his 15-year-old son, Nick, had made a tape of some statements and actions by Gibson that were described in the "personal and confidential" nine-page letter written to his former collaborator earlier this week.
That letter went public Wednesday via TheWrap, shortly after Warner Bros. announced it had put a hold on "The Maccabees," a project envisioned as "a Jewish 'Braveheart'" to be produced and possibly directed by Gibson and written by Eszterhas.
(The studio said Wednesday that it was not ready to work with the current script. Eszterhas said in the letter that he found out in mid-March the studio was rejecting the script he'd submitted to Gibson in February; he said Gibson never contacted him after the rejection to discuss the project, causing him to conclude the actor "never had ... any intention" of making the film, and had merely announced it in an attempt to rehab his career and reputation. Gibson has said he's been working on the project for 10 years.)
The "Basic Instinct" writer's letter, full of profanity and vulgarity, depicts Gibson as a man out of control, cursing at houseguests, staff and even clergy in Costa Rica and in Malibu and spewing anti-Semitic slurs and concepts -- not to mention ranting about ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva during their custody clash and threatening to have her killed.
Much like notorious tapes of Gibson ranting at Grigorieva, which were recorded on one day but released over several days without context, the letter gives an impression of nonstop belligerance -- something Ezsterhas addressed Thursday.
"I have your letter," Gibson wrote Wednesday in a reply that was also sent to news outlets. "I am not going to respond to it line by line, but I will say that the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications. I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter. I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script."
Gibson admitted being "passionate and intense," albeit "very frustrated" when Eszterhas showed up at the actor's Costa Rica home allegedly without having written word one of the script after 15 months of research, discussions and meetings.
"I did react more strongly than I should have," Gibson wrote. "I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms."
And though the letter bluntly called Eszterhas' first draft "late," "substandard" and a "significant waste of time," it is the "utter fabrications" claim that has the writer doing the rounds now with his side of the story (though he said he wrote the initial letter to Mel because he's concerned Gibson is "unstable," "needs medication" and "needs help").
But it's also a little more personal than that, when it comes to son Nick's experiences while the family stayed in Costa Rica -- something Eszterhas characterized on the "Today" show as the worst behavior from Gibson.
"Mel shared with him a pornographic scenario that I can only call sexual butchery that he fantasized in terms of Oksana .... To put that imagery in a 15-year-old boy's head I think is heinous, I think it's vile and I think it's unforgivable."
Gibson said in his letter that, "The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor," adding, " I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication."
Eszterhas says he doesn't know what he's going to do with the tape.
Photo: Mel Gibson in an L.A. court in March 2011. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times